Giant Bloodsucking Worms

For some reason, today I keep thinking of the X-Files episode in which Mulder says, matter-of-factly, “It looks like I’m gonna have to tell Skinner that his suspect is a giant bloodsucking worm after all.” One of the all-time great moments of television.

Today I’m looking at the Right Blogosphere and thinking, “They really are that stupid, after all.”

The background story, which you’ve probably heard by now, comes out of today’s New York Times. William J. Broad writes that Iraqi documents the U.S. government had posted on the web to keep the wingnuts busy included —

… detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

I repeat, accounts of Iraq’s nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Skip over to National Review Online, where Jim Geraghty writes,

I’m sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?

What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been “no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat”, for the past three years solid. Now we’re being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.


I think the Times editors are counting on this being spun as a “Boy, did Bush screw up” meme; the problem is, to do it, they have to knock down the “there was no threat in Iraq” meme, once and for all. Because obviously, Saddam could have sold this information to anybody, any other state, or any well-funded terrorist group that had publicly pledged to kill millions of Americans and had expressed interest in nuclear arms. You know, like, oh… al-Qaeda.

The New York Times just tore the heart out of the antiwar argument, and they are apparently completely oblivous to it.

There are times when I almost wish I were a rightie. If you are a rightie, you can be don’t know shit from shinola stupid, and get paid for it. Must be nice. (See also “Cry, the Beloved Stupid Country” at A Tiny Revolution.)

That Iraq knew how to make nuclear bombs isn’t exactly a surprise. Through the magic of the Internets and the Google, we can find detailed information on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program before the 1991 Gulf war. We can learn that Iraq had a lot of uranium, and that in 1989 Iraq began construction on the mass production of centrifuges and a pilot-scale cascade hall at Al Furat. We can learn that Iraq “planned to divert highly enriched uranium, that was subjected to Agency safeguards, at Tuwaitha under a ‘crash programme’ to use the material in the production of a nuclear weapon,” says the IAEA. And on the same page we learn that

  • Iraq’s primary focus was a basic implosion fission design, fuelled by HEU
  • Using open-source literature and theoretical studies, ran various computer codes through Iraq’s mainframe computer to adapt the codes and develop the physical constants for a nuclear weapon development programme
  • Was aware of more advanced weapon design concepts
  • Invested significant efforts to understand the various options for neutron initiators

This is not news. This is stuff the IAEA had up on the web, in English, before the 2003 invasion. I know this because I found it way back then.

However, if you don’t have stuff to make a bomb with — you know, like uranium and hundreds of centrifuges — the plans are not all that effective. You could wad them up and toss crumpled paper balls at people, but that’s about it. And on the same page (scroll down to the chart at the bottom) we can learn that Iraq’s nuclear program stuff was destroyed, either by the 1991 Gulf war or by the IAEA.

Thus, information about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program before 1991 is not relevant to a decision to invade Iraq in 2003, unless you have new information that they’d rebuilt their centrifuges and cascade hall and such, and the IAEA was very certain they had not done this. Remember, inspectors were re-admitted into Iraq more than four months before the invasion, and they had found what was left of Iraq’s nuclear bomb-making facilities exactly as it had been left in 1998. You can find the IAEA’s press releases and reports on Iraq’s nuclear facilities from September 2002 to July 2003 here.

Once again, I am dumbfounded — which is what happens when you have found stuff that’s dumb — at how little the righties understand the history of Iraq’s WMDs and by their utter inability to comprehend linear time. (See also, from the Maha archives, “Jeez, Righties Are So Gullible.”)

Today, some of them seem to think that Saddam could have just snapped his fingers and had an advanced nuclear weapons program cranked up in no time. No, dears. We’re talking about a nation with only some centrifuge fragments buried in some guy’s flower garden. It would have taken them years to get back to where they were in 1991, especially after the inspectors were readmitted.

Broad of the Times says it was the IAEA that noticed the Iraqi plans on the web and asked that it be taken off.

Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agency’s technical experts “were shocked” at the public disclosures.

Early this morning, a spokesman for Gregory L. Schulte, the American ambassador, denied that anyone from the agency had approached Mr. Schulte about the Web site.

You’ll remember that last March, John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, posted a bunch of random documents captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. These were hyped as possibly being the mother lode of proof that Saddam Hussein either had WMDs or was in cahoots with al Qaeda. Righties seized upon these and eagerly began to “interpret” them, often to hilarious results. So far little in them has been news, except to righties.

Via Oliver Willis, an NPR interview of Michael Scheuer from April on the document dump.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well, clearly, somebody feels it’s in America’s interest. This has been a Republican-pushed release. Would there be some potential benefit for the Republicans?

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Oh, I think clearly there is, and we’ve already seen their mouthpiece, The Weekly Standard, has already run a couple of articles saying that this proves Saddam did X or did Y, without any [LAUGHING] real knowledge of how the new documents fit into the context of everything else we know. It’s just plain amateurishness — or they know what’s in these documents and they figure it can help them by releasing it.

Today Thomas Friedmannot the sharpest tack in the box, himself — complained that Bushies think voters are stupid.

They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.

Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, “They must think I’m stupid.” Because they surely do.

Ah, Mr. Friedman — look at Bush’s base. They really are that stupid, after all.

Commentary from Smart People:

Christy Hardin Smith, “NUKE-u-lar MOH-rons.”

Scott Lemieux , “Charles Johnson, Genius

Michael Bérubé, “ABF Friday: Special Election Edition!

Steve Gilliard, ” Taking the pinheads bowling

Digby, “Secretary of Hack

18 thoughts on “Giant Bloodsucking Worms

  1. It’s kind of an extension of their ‘Clinton said Saddam had WMDs’ line–except where that just confuses 1998 with 2002, in this one they’re going all the way back to 1991. Maybe if you’re a Republican you can transcend pesky details like linear time.

  2. I just saw John Gibson on Fox’s Big Story. He was on with a republican and a democrat. The democrat did OK till Gibson started saying “The New York Times just reported Saddam had nukes.” He must have repeated it about six times while the democrat looked around and searched for something to say. She finally said “Well, I have not heard that.” .

    Boy I wish you or someone with a little moxy had been there to shove it in Gibsons face. “John, Saddam never had nuclear weapons and the NYT did not report that he did. You should not lie to your viewers. The NYT and everyone else knows Saddam had a nuclear werpons program about fifteen years ago and that is what was in the documents and that is what the NYT was talking about.”

    Unfortunatly, probably more people will hear Gibson’s lie than ever read the NYT story.

  3. Pingback: The Heretik : Everything Old is News Again

  4. I actually think there are two kinds of Righties. There are those who spout stupid stuff knowing that the other type will believe it, and … well … then there’s the other type that, uh, believes it. Anyway, the first type isn’t so dumb, actually. They know what they’re doing, and it seems to be working.

    When you say, “There are times when I almost wish I were a rightie,” I have to admit, I sometimes feel the same way. It must be satisfying to have people believe whatever you say, regardless of its truth(iness).

  5. I’m not sure THEY are that stupid (just as I am not sure Rush Limbaugh is as stupid as the part he plays on radio).

    What is certain, though, is that they KNOW their audience IS that stupid…

  6. I hope these morons don’t think that this will help them in any way on Tuesday. Glenn Greenwald and others are worried about the timing of the Saddam Hussein verdict’s effect on the election, too.

    Here’s what I think: The majority of people in this country have now come to the conclusion that anything any Republican, up to and including especially the President, says is a lie. They suspect everything (the verdict, lower gas prices, nuclear war plans on the internets OMG) is political spin at this point. They are correct, of course. A bit late, but they got there.

    All this crap the righties are desperately spinning is coming through to the voters as just so much white noise. People have made up their minds, they’re gonna vote how they’re gonna vote. And I’m thinking most of them are voting anti-Republican, either by voting for Democrats, or, if they can’t quite bring themselves to do this (I know quite a few people in this camp–hey, I’m in Missouri), by just staying home and watching a movie with the family.

    So go ahead, right wing twits. Scream, wave your hands, jump up and down, yell lies at the tops of your voices, dredge up twenty year old issues, get even those wrong, whatever. Knock yourselves out, while we laugh our asses off at you. American voters have their fingers in their ears, and are singing the ‘Lalalalalalala I can’t hear you’ song.

  7. This is off topic but it is on topic in a sense- ie Republicons will say anything.

    Being a voter with a tv is hazardous combat duty. A woman called in to the radio today complaining about being a human being in a targeted state. Boy was she right.
    The ads and the phone calls. One thing I have noticed- I am in a ‘red’ state with a Dem Govenor who will win easily- The R opposing him is running ads attacking him by showing him at the 2004 Dem Convention saying “John Kerry” and amplifying it: the implication being that Kerry is his hero and that it is a crime to attend one’s convention and endorse one’s party candidate. Another commercial attacks a local Dem for ‘ taking money connected to Hillary Clinton and John Dean. Well they are Dems and Dean is the Chairman of the party so yea, we get the slur but it is the attack on being a member of another party and gasp taking party money that is being attacked here. Another ad attacks a Dem for state senate, an Iraq vet, a lawyer, for defending drug dealers and criminals. Yea it is what lawyers do. What I’m seeing is the attack on belonging to another party, participating in the legal system. It is more than attacking someone for their views or even smearing them personally but attacking the idea of more than one party ( why permit more than one)or of defending people in court( as if accused means convicted so why bother with a legal system) . And most of the Republicons here have nothing but anti immigration in their ads. One shows an illegal immigrant as ET it is particularly offensive. I have not seen any Dem commercials even close to the Repub ads offensiveness They are much more positive. All I am trying to say is the desperation is certainly showing.

  8. they are that stupid aren’t they. i fear for our country as the stupids have stepped out.

  9. k, the points you make in #8 are really good about smearing a ‘whole party’ to try to maintain a one-party government. In a way, our side does something similar with ads visually tying their candidates to the increasingly unpopular George W. Bush.

    All this negativity reminds me so much of the high school type loyalty to sports teams, where the collective chants and winning the game is the only important focus in their world. [What teenager ever contemplates whether their own team players will work together with the other team’s players to build a better society when they someday graduate to the adult world?] I think the Republicans ads target voters who have not graduated out of adolescence.

  10. The same talking point was made on MSNBC in an attempt to confuse viewers by mingling 1991 information with the reason for the 2003 invasion.

    The disrespect that the current leadership has for the citizens of this country is astounding. The leader’s arrogance, smugness, and ongoing deceptions must frustrate most people with a modest amount of self-respect. The republican leadership knows that it has not enlightened anyone about the reasons for invading Iraq, and assumes that people don’t take the time to think about it.

    The talking point was the best lie that that the Bush gang could pull out of their butts to excuse that fact that the “stronger on national security” gang had made yet another major blunder.

    Conservatives are paranoid that if they can’t come up with a better reason then that they sacrificed nearly 3000 American soldier’s lives, and murdered, at least, 100,000 Iraq civilians, because it served as a distraction that cleared the way for them to loot Iraq and rob, (in a multitude of ways – their M.O.,) the American people, they will be charged with war crimes.

    The right wing leadership is desperate to find any legitimate reason for their invasion. They risked exposing Iraqi documents that could teach terrorists how to arm, trigger, and understand the core of a nuclear weapon, to find anything that might justify their war.

    Bush asked for the authorization to go to war, so that he could keep the peace. He was given the personal authorization to choose to go to war if necessary to keep the peace. Thus the “unitary executive” took personal responsibility for starting the war with Iraq rather than share the responsibility with Congess. When Bush gave orders to attack Iraq it became his war.

    Iraq’s nuclear weapons, chemical, and biological weapons programs and stockpiles were nearly all destroyed during and a few months after the Persian Gulf War. With regular fly overs, occasional bombings, economic sanctions, and inspections the Iraqi WMD programs did not recover, and everyone seemed to know it, including republican leaders who then decided to lie about it.

    Nothing was going to stop the right wing from indulging their fantasy of robbing two nations simultaneously, (one of them the richest in the world,) so that the fraud they perpetrated would profit them greater than any other corruption between our government and the “free market” in our nation’s history.

    Many people don’t seem to understand that no nation goes to war to benefit others. A nation goes to war to benefit itself. The expenditure of resources is thought too great for a nation to commit itself to war for any other reason except one – self-defense.

  11. We’re talking about a nation with only some centrifuge fragments buried in some guy’s flower garden.

    But … but … but Christopher Hitchens mentions that all the time as a reason we had to overthrow Saddam! So it must be really, really significant!

  12. The same talking point was made on MSNBC in an attempt to confuse viewers by mingling 1991 information with the reason for the 2003 invasion.

    Nonsense like this is the reason I got into blogging. I got so tired of facts being misrepresented, twisted around, or manufactured wholesale by righties in the media that I was compelled to start explaining stuff to anyone who would listen.

  13. Or how about this from a clip shown on The Daily Show: Bush: “We weren’t in Iraq in 2001 when they attacked the World Trade Center.”

    The ambiguous antecendent to “they” might well be seen as just poor language construction, but more likely — after years of trying (lying) to connect Iraq to 9/11 — it is another attempt to re-enforce in the malleable mind of the American voter that we’re in Iraq as a justifiable response to 9/11.

    But if you were to call him on it, he would just say that “they” refers to the hijackers, not Iraqis. Plausible deniability. Damage done.

  14. Well, I’ve got to give myself a big pat on the back for my progression in learning to identify the bullshit. I watched Lynne Cheney in a television interview the other day and I caught several myths and stereotypes being propagated that I wouldn’t have picked up on just two years ago. Thanks to Maha for cluing me in on the foundations and dynamics of the Liberal myth. I’ve become quite proficient at identifying that myth regardless of the ease of speech in which it is disseminated. Maybe Lynne Chenny was an easy one and I’m getting puffed up over small potatoes,but I can catch an awful lot of Rush Limbaugh’s bullshit misrepresentations also.

    The shit flows from their lips like honey!

Comments are closed.